Shift’s Founding Story: Reflecting on our History for this New “Day One”

By George Arison & Toby Russell 

Co-CEOs, Shift

We are excited to announce that Shift is now a public company, trading on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol SFT. This comes four months after we announced plans to become one of the first companies in Silicon Valley to pursue a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) transaction by combining with Insurance Acquisition Corporation, a SPAC sponsored by Cohen & Company. 

As founders, both of us believe that the best way to build a company is charting the path to take it public. Of course for most entrepreneurs, this never happens, since so few companies, including the very successful ones, ever get the chance to be in the public market. We are so very fortunate to be reaching this milestone less than seven years since being incorporated, and just 26 quarters since selling our “first” car. 

Getting the company to this stage is an incredible team effort and we wanted to recognize and congratulate everyone whose contribution has played a part in making this happen. We owe a tremendous thank you to Shift’s current and past employees who believed in the company’s vision to transform the auto industry for good and have worked so hard to pursue our mission to make car purchase and ownership simple and accessible to everyone. We are so very appreciative of everyone keeping the eye on the ball and executing. Without you, Shift could not be where it is and today would not have been possible. 

We also owe a deep appreciation to all of our customers. There is tremendous joy in delighting users and helping them improve their lives through a purchase of something that is so consequential. A car is, after all, a means to get around, to get to and from work and school, to take family trips, to make life happen. And a car is the largest single item most Americans will ever own outright. Finding and buying the right car should be a fun and fair experience. We are grateful to all the customers who have used the Shift way to buy or sell their cars. 

Lastly, Shift would not be possible without the trust and support of the many investors who have been with us on this journey. Thank you to everyone who has been willing to put the necessary capital investments behind our project, from our earliest investors in our seed round to investors who supported our SPAC transaction, and everyone in between.

Our road has not always been easy; it has come with many ups and downs. At our core, we’ve always believed that the seemingly impossible can be made possible — that we could achieve what most thought could not be done. To do this, we’ve been helped by a lot of grit and determination. This is a great time to take stock of what we’ve accomplished and celebrate this big win.

Being public, of course, is not the end of our journey, but rather, the beginning of a new chapter in our company’s growth. In the coming months, quarters, and years, we need to continue to be laser focused on execution, on delighting customers, on hitting numbers, and on creating shareholder value, like we have been as a private company. Through this transaction we raised capital that will allow us to invest in scaling our business and ensure that more and more customers have an opportunity to experience the Shift way of buying and selling their cars. As a company, we have always been judicious about our spend, and we will continue to be so in the future, even as we invest in building a stronger brand, expanding our operations, creating new technology, and launching new markets. 

For now — we wanted to congratulate everyone who has been part of our journey. We are deeply grateful and look forward to a great future as a public company!

As we make this transition, we’re reflecting too on our founding story — how Shift all got started. 

A little over nine years ago, the two of us were having one of our regular weekend conversations about company ideas when Toby told George about the challenges he was having buying a car. Toby wanted to go to a specific dealer (a huge company he had used a couple of times before) and finance the car using the bank where he worked, but the bank would not work with the dealer, so the transaction could not go through. As it turned out, George had just gone through a very similar experience trying to get a loan to buyout his leased vehicle — all the banks directed him to a dealer to get a loan, and the dealer eventually approved him for a loan with the very banks that said no to him earlier. 

These experiences got us wondering why dealers had so much control over the auto financing process. We started to investigate, and spent nearly two years talking to dealers, auto lenders, customers who bought cars at dealerships, and individuals who engaged in private party transactions. We realized that there was a huge opportunity to use technology to transform the car purchase experience. 

In mid-2013 George started to work on the idea full time, initially contacting car sellers on Craigslist, trying to get them to engage on the first product concept: to offer their prospective buyers a warranty. It was during these interactions that sellers would ask if we’d be willing to take their cars and sell them on their behalf. The whole concept seemed crazy since the team was working out of George’s apartment, was using Toby’s and George’s savings to fund the testing, had no insurance, and would need to park cars on the street. Yet, by end of the year we had about a dozen cars parked on the street in the Castro district of San Francisco that we were trying to sell. 

Shift has come a long way since then. It has been our continued determination to build a thriving company that outlasts us that has gotten us here, and we are excited to be listing on Nasdaq. And while it was a thrilling road to get to this point, the best is yet to come. To paraphrase the great Jeff Bezos, from whom we’ve learned so much, reset your clocks, Day One starts now. 

– George and Toby